Freedom for Boris Kagarlitsky! Solidarity is stronger than repression!

Boris Kagarlitsky

First published at Solidarity (US).

Boris Kagarlitsky*, Russian Marxist writer-activist, had an unexpected “appeal” trial on February 13, 2024. Prosecutors were seeking to overturn the results of his two-day trial in December 2023, when Kagarlitsky was released with a fine after serving 4.5 months in pre-trial detention in the Komi Republic, 800 km north of Moscow. He was facing 5.5-7 years imprisonment on a charge of “justifying terrorism,” but instead was released with a fine of 609,000 rubles, about $6500.

The charge was absurd on its face, but part of a generalized attack on the Russian Left movement as a whole, Kagarlitsky’s Rabkor media outlet in particular, and served as a warning for anti-war and anti-regime critics that breaking silence on the war would have dire consequences. Indeed, there are 15,000 people who have been arrested for opposing the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine.

In Kagarlitsky’s case, the charge of justifying terrorism was for ironic remarks he made in a social media video entitled “Explosive Greetings from Mostik the Cat.” The authorities did not get Boris’ joke and argued that Kagarlitsky was justifying the Crimean Bridge explosion. As Boris later remarked, “Moreover, it is assumed that two words are taken, not even the full text, two words. Naturally, there was no approval of the explosion, I insist on this. But there was a phrase, well, you could say, really, it wasn’t a very good joke, to be honest. Unfortunately, not all of my jokes are successful.”

In response to Boris’ detention in Syktyvkar, far from Moscow to prevent rallies on his behalf, a huge “Free Boris” movement arose internationally, and more importantly, all across Russian cities and towns. There were spontaneous demonstrations, online protests, Free Boris graffiti painted on walls, and coordinated international actions on Kagarlitsky’s birthday last August.

Thousands of signatures were collected from prominent intellectuals, activists, and politicians. Brazil’s President Lula criticized Kagarlitsky’s detention, as did leaders in other “BRICS” countries who Putin counts as allies. When Boris was released December 13, 2023, it was a demonstration that international pressure and solidarity works.

The appeal trial, which Boris expected to affirm the verdict from December, ended with the December verdict being overturned, and a sentence of five years in a general regime penal colony imposed. Boris was taken into custody from the courtroom.

The prosecution argued that Boris was going through bankruptcy proceedings and could not pay the fine imposed in December — so he had to serve the original sentence. Both are untrue: Rabkor held a crowdfunding the day following Kagarlitsky’s release, and 700,000 rubles were collected within an hour.

Subsequent legal costs and fines imposed another 710,000 rubles to the amount Kagarlitsky was to pay. Again, Rabkor’s crowdfunding raised the required amount, totaling 1,410,000 rubles ($15,270.00) In an almost comic move, the bank tried to refuse the money when Boris paid the fine. But it was paid, undercutting the prosecutor’s arguments.

As Ilya Budraitskis said, “it is hopeless to discuss legalistic arguments, there is no legality in Kagarlitsky’s case, Navalny’s case or that of the many others in custody for their views. There is no legality, just political decisions coming from the top to courts which have no independence.”

The appeal trial result was unexpected, brutal, and significant. Three days later, on February 16th, Alexei Navalny died in the harsh Arctic Circle penal colony where he was being held. These events occur in the context of the upcoming second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine and the approaching rubber stamp presidential election, when the Kremlin looks to portray Russians as united behind Putin and his bid for a fifth term.

Kagarlitsky, for his part, was allowed to make a statement after the decision, and showed his characteristic optimism and his resolve. He thanked Rabkor, asked for more solidarity, but was not discouraged. He said,

I am as always, in high spirits. I continue to collect data and materials for new books, including descriptions of prison life – now in Moscow institutions. Anyway, see you soon! I am sure that everything will be fine eventually. We will see each other again both on the channel and in person. We just need to live a little longer and survive this dark period for our country.

Boris will serve his sentence in a penal colony as yet unknown. First, he will be in quarantine for 30 days. As of this writing, Kagarlitsky is in pretrial detention center 7 Kapotnya, Moscow, known as one of Russia’s harshest.

Kagarlitsky’s daughter, attending an impromptu gathering for Alexei Navalny, made this statement about his murder at the hands of Putin:

And for all of us, this is a special sign, especially for those who have relatives, friends, associates, in the hands of Putin’s regime, we are all not safe. Now, when Boris is behind bars, it is especially important to understand how dangerous his hands are, and to show even more solidarity around Boris, around his case and around other political prisoners. Many condolences to Alexey’s family. It is very difficult for me to imagine what they are going through now, and it is very difficult for all of us.

Indeed, Boris Kagarlitsky, the Marxist critic and thorn in the side of Putin’s regime, is now in their hands, and international solidarity is required.

#Freedom for Boris Kagarlitsky! #Freedom for all political prisoners!

*According to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, Kagarlitsky is a foreign agent.

Statement from Rabkor

On February 13, 2024, the military court of appeal changed the sentence to imprisonment. Earlier, on December 12, the court found Boris guilty in the case of “Justification of Terrorism” and sentenced him to a fine of 609 thousand rubles.

However, this was not enough for the state prosecution. An appeal was filed immediately after the December trial. The prosecution requested 5.5 years in prison, citing the fact that Boris is going through bankruptcy proceedings and allegedly cannot pay the fine.

Kagarlitsky managed to pay off this and another fine for the absence of a foreign agency ticket in the amount of 710 thousand rubles in full even before the appeal trial. But the court did not take this fact into account and sentenced Boris Kagarlitsky to 5 years in prison in a general regime colony.

Boris came to the meeting with his bag already packed. Alas, not in vain. He was arrested right in the courtroom.

Boris Kagarlitsky is neither an extremist nor a terrorist, although he is included in the list of terrorists and extremists by Rosfinmonitoring. Boris Kagarlitsky never justified terrorism, including in that video and post in his telegram channel, which, at the will of the state prosecution, formed the plot of the criminal case.

Friends, now Boris’s family needs your support. If you want to help, you can use Patreon or Busti of the international support group of Boris Kagarlitsky or write to their email: Any help is welcome.